Archive for March, 2018

16 Years Ago, the US Captured Abu Zubaydah, First Official Victim of the Post-9/11 Torture Program, Still Held at Guantánamo Without Charge or Trial

Abu Zubaydah: illustration by Brigid Barrett from an article in Wired in July 2013. The photo used is from the classified military files released by WikiLeaks in 2013.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

16 years ago, on March 28, 2002, an event took place that has had dreadful repercussions ever since, when Pakistani and American agents raided a house in Faisalabad, Pakistan and captured Abu Zubaydah (Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn), creating a torture program especially for him, which was then applied to dozens of other prisoners seized in the US’s brutal and pointless “war on terror.”

A Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia in 1971, Zubaydah had traveled to Afghanistan to join the mujahideen in the Afghan civil war (1989-1992) that followed the retreat of the Soviet Union after its ten-year occupation. In 1992, he was severely injured by an exploding mortar shell, suffering shrapnel wounds and severe memory loss. For over a year, he was also left unable to speak.

Although he eventually recovered sufficiently to become a logistician for Khalden, an independent training camp run by Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, which closed around 2000 when al-Libi refused to allow it to come under the control of Al-Qaeda, FBI agents who interviewed him after his capture had no doubt that the mortar damage had caused permanent damage. They also knew that he was a kind of travel agent for Khalden, and not number 3 in Al-Qaeda, as the CIA and the Bush administration mistakenly thought. (Al-Libi, meanwhile, tortured into telling lies that the US used to justify its illegal invasion of Iraq, was eventually returned to Libya, where Col. Gaddafi imprisoned him and later killed him). Read the rest of this entry »

Why Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Mustn’t Be Destroyed

One of the photos taken on the day Guantanamo opened, January 11, 2002, by Shane T. McCoy of the US Navy.

Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

On March 6, indefatigable Guantánamo chronicler Carol Rosenberg, of the Miami Herald, reported that the Pentagon “plans to tear down Camp X-Ray, a weed-filled warren of chain-link-fence cells where the Bush administration held its first 311 war-on-terror prisoners at Guantánamo — and famously released a photo of kneeling captives in orange jumpsuits that stirred allegations of torture.”

Rosenberg added that, for many years, the prison’s various commanders had said that the site “was under a federal court protective order and could not be razed.” However, on March 5, Justice Department attorney Andrew Warden wrote to lawyers who represent Guantánamo prisoners, informing them that “the FBI has created an interactive, simulated three-dimensional, digital virtual tour of Camp X-Ray that shows all areas of the camp where detainees were held, interrogated, or otherwise present.”

Rosenberg added that “Trump administration attorneys consider it a suitable substitute,” and also explained that, although the prison supposedly closed in April 2002, when the first more permanent cells of Camp Delta were erected, it was used later in 2002 for the torture of Mohammed al-Qahtani, a Saudi prisoner regarded as the intended 20th hijacker for the 9/11 attacks. Just before George W. Bush left office, Susan Crawford, the convening authority of the military commission trial system set up under Bush at Guantánamo, explained to the Washington Post that she had refused to have al-Qahtani prosecuted because of the torture to which he was subjected, which included sleep deprivation, being threatened by dogs, sexual abuse, forced nudity, being shackled in painful positions, and being physically beaten. Read the rest of this entry »

You’ve Never Heard Anything Like This Before: BAC Beatbox Academy’s Exhilarating ‘Frankenstein’ Show at Battersea Arts Centre

BAC Beatbox Academy performing their song 'Hideous' as part of their show 'Frankenstein' at Battersea Arts Centre on March 22, 2018 (Photo: Andy Worthington).

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐– Andy’s review

At Battersea Arts Centre in south west London, an extraordinary performance is taking place over the next two weeks, which I urge you to go and see if you’re in London. The show is ‘Frankenstein’ (aka ‘Frankenstein: How to Make a Monster’), and it’s performed by the BAC Beatbox Academy, a collective of beatboxers, singers and rappers who have produced a genuinely unique and completely exhilarating show. As I suggest in the headline of this article, I can guarantee that you have never heard anything like it before.

Perhaps you think beatboxing is a little one-dimensional — men with big lungs making massive, meaty dance beats through a microphone. Impressive, but essentially a novelty, and not something you could spend much time listening to.

If that’s what you think, then ‘Frankenstein’ will blow away those preconceptions, as the BAC Beatbox Academy, which is marking its 10th anniversary this year, is expert at confounding expectations. The group first came to my attention back in 2015, when a friend suggested that my son Tyler, then 15, should audition to take part in it. Tyler had always been a sonically interested child, and had been impressed by seeing the beatboxer Shlomo at WOMAD, which eventually led to him coming up with his own beats and compositions, but it wasn’t until he went to the Beatbox Academy audition that, as he put it, he realised that he had found his people, that there were other people like him. Read the rest of this entry »

The Torture Trail of Gina Haspel Makes Her Unsuitable to be Director of the CIA

Gina Haspel, the current Deputy Director of the CIA, and Donald Trump, who last week appointed her as the CIA's next Director, a nomination that should face hurdles in Congress because of her role overseeing a "black site" in Thailand, and her role in destroying videotapes of torture at the site.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

I wrote the following article for the “Close Guantánamo” website, which I established in January 2012, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of Guantánamo, with the US attorney Tom Wilner. Please join us — just an email address is required to be counted amongst those opposed to the ongoing existence of Guantánamo, and to receive updates of our activities by email.

Last Tuesday, Donald Trump announced that Mike Pompeo, the current Director of the CIA, would become the new Secretary of State, replacing Rex Tillerson, while Gina Haspel, the current Deputy Director of the CIA, would be promoted to Director, “the first woman so chosen.”

There was nothing positive about this development. As usual, Trump, defying protocol and any notion of politeness, announced Tillerson’s sacking, and the new appointments, by tweet. Tillerson, formerly the CEO of ExxonMobil, had been an indifferent Secretary of State, but Pompeo is a poor choice to be the nation’s top diplomat — hawkish on Iran, and a supporter of the continuing existence of Guantánamo. Interestingly, the New Yorker noted that Tillerson was fired shortly after agreeing with the British government that Russia “appears” to have been responsible for the recent nerve-gas attack on a former Russian spy in Salisbury, in the UK. Pompeo, however, is not averse to criticizing Russia, in contrast to Trump himself, who, ignoring his advisers, on Tuesday congratulated Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory.

However, the bulk of the criticism after Trump’s announcement has, deservedly, been reserved for the promotion of Gina Haspel, who oversaw the last few months’ existence of the CIA’s first post-9/11 “black site” in Thailand, and later conspired to destroy videotapes of the torture that took place there. Unlike Mike Pompeo, who has taken a stance agains torture, there is no sign from Haspel that she recognizes the illegality of torture, and in Donald Trump, of course, she has a president who is an enthusiastic advocate for the use of torture. Read the rest of this entry »

Launching A Crowdfunder to Support a UK Tour of ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the New Documentary Film About the Threat to Social Housing, Which I Narrate

A promotional poster for 'Concrete Soldiers UK', designed by the Artful Dodger. The film, directed by Nikita Woolfe, was released in December 2017, and a crowdfunded was launched in March 2018 to take the film on the road.Please support the crowdfunding campaign here!

Dear friends and supporters,

I’m writing to ask if you can help with a crowdfunding campaign I’ve just helped to launch, for a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, which I narrate. Directed by Nikita Woolfe, the film looks at council estates threatened with destruction in the UK, and the inspiring resistance of residents to the proposed destruction of their homes, and we’re hoping to raise the money required to take it around the country, and to produce a booklet compiling information about how to successfully resist estate destruction — and which pitfalls to avoid. If you can help out at all, it will be very greatly appreciated.

The crowdfunding page is embedded below:


My involvement with the film came about after I met Niki at an open meeting last June, called by ASH (Architects for Social Housing) to discuss the Grenfell Tower fire — and specifically, to examine what caused the fire, and what lessons can and must be learned from it. Niki was filming that meeting, which was later made available as a video, and afterwards she asked me to narrate ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, which she had been working on for three years. Read the rest of this entry »

My Gratitude to the NHS, Seven Years After I Developed A Rare Blood Disease and Nearly Lost Two Toes

Andy Worthington in St. Thomas's Hospital, March 23, 2011 (Photo: Dot Young).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Seven years ago yesterday, I was admitted to hospital after suffering for two months with severe pain in two toes on my right foot. As a human rights campaigner, it was, I thought, somewhat ironic that I was in such pain that I was suffering from sleep deprivation, unable to sleep for more than a few minutes before being jolted awake in excruciating pain, a situation that lasted for at least a month, if I recall correctly after all this time.

Eventually, doctors worked out that I had a blood clot, which was what was turning my toes black, but it wasn’t until I was admitted to hospital — and, specifically, St. Thomas’s, where I was taken on March 20, that specialists worked out what to do for me — or, rather, what they would try, to see if it worked — which involved me, for five days, having what felt like liquid cement pumped into me, in an effort to widen the artery that fed my toes and, ultimately, to save them. (I wrote about my experience at the time, in an article entitled, Intimations of Mortality — And Why This Is the View From My Bedroom).

Their endeavours, I’m very glad to say, were successful. After 12 days in hospital, thoroughly marinaded in morphine (a miraculous pain-killer that doctors work hard to prevent mere mortals from having access to on a regular basis, presumably to prevent the world from being overrun with morphine addicts), I returned home, to resume my life, to allow my toes to fully heal, and, eventually, to start a new life. Read the rest of this entry »

In Guantánamo Habeas Corpus Case, Lawyers Insist That Trump’s Stated Intention of Not Releasing Any Prisoners Renders Their Imprisonment “Perpetual” — and Illegal

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly and a photo of the prison at Guantanamo Bay on the day of its opening, Jan. 11, 2002.Please support my work as a reader-funded journalist! I’m currently trying to raise $2500 (£2000) to support my writing and campaigning on Guantánamo and related issues over the next three months of the Trump administration.

 

On January 11, the 16th anniversary of the opening of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, lawyers for eleven of the 41 prisoners still held submitted a habeas corpus petition to the District Court in Washington, D.C., arguing, as a press release by the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights put it, that “[Donald] Trump’s proclamation against releasing anyone from Guantánamo, regardless of their circumstances, which has borne out for the first full year of the Trump presidency, is arbitrary and unlawful and amounts to ‘perpetual detention for detention’s sake.’”

CCR’s press release also stated that the lawyers’ filing “argues that continued detention is unconstitutional because any legitimate rationale for initially detaining these men has long since expired; detention now, 16 years into Guantánamo’s operation, is based only on Trump’s raw antipathy towards Guantánamo prisoners – all foreign-born Muslim men – and Muslims more broadly.” The lawyers added that “Donald Trump’s proclamation that he will not release any detainees during his administration reverses the approach and policies of both President Bush and President Obama, who collectively released nearly 750 men.”

In an article marking the submission of the habeas petition, I explained that the eleven men whose lawyers submitted the petition are “Tawfiq al-Bihani (ISN 893) aka Tofiq or Toffiq al-Bihani, a Yemeni who was approved for release by Obama’s Guantánamo Review Task Force in 2010, Abdul Latif Nasser (ISN 244) aka Abdu Latif Nasser, a Moroccan approved for release in 2016 by a Periodic Review Board, a parole-type process, and nine others whose ongoing imprisonment was upheld by their PRBs: Yemenis Zohair al-Sharabi aka Suhail Sharabi (ISN 569), Said Nashir (ISN 841), Sanad al-Kazimi (ISN 1453) and Sharqawi al-Hajj (ISN 1457), Pakistanis Abdul Rabbani (ISN 1460) and Ahmed Rabbani (ISN 1461), the Algerian Saeed Bakhouche (ISN 685), aka Said Bakush, mistakenly known as Abdul Razak or Abdul Razak Ali, Abdul Malik aka Abdul Malik Bajabu (ISN 10025), a Kenyan, and one of the last men to be brought to the prison — inexplicably — in 2007, and Abu Zubaydah (ISN 10016), one of Guantánamo’s better-known prisoners, a stateless Palestinian, for whom the post-9/11 torture program was initially conceived, under the mistaken belief that he was a high-ranking member of al-Qaeda.” Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser: Still Seeking $2000 (£1500) for My Guantánamo Work, Housing Activism, Protest Music and London Photography

A screenshot of Andy Worthington calling for the closure of Guantanamo outside the White House on January 11, 2018.Please click on the ‘Donate’ button below to make a donation towards the $2000 (£1500) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters,

It’s Day 4 of my quarterly fundraiser, and I’m grateful to the friends and supporters who have helped me reach 20% of my target of $2500 (£1800) to continue my work on Guantánamo over the next three months. However, I’d like to ask you, if you can, to join in helping me, as, for the most part, a reader-funded journalist and activist, to raise the funds I’m seeking to enable me to keep working — writing the 50 or so articles I publish every quarter, plus all my social media work, and, when they happen, media and personal appearances.

I have no institutional backing for my work, and no revenue stream that comes through the mainstream media and its advertisers’ support, so almost everything I do is dependent on your financial support for me to continue — not just my writing and campaigning to close Guantánamo, but also my work in defence of social housing in the UK (including ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, the new documentary film that I narrate and am preparing to tour around the UK), my protest music, with my band The Four Fathers, and my London photography project, ‘The State of London.’

If you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s $500, $100, $25 or even $10 — or the equivalent in any other currency. The donation page is set to dollars, because the majority of my readers are based in the US, but PayPal will convert any amount you wish to pay from any other currency — and you don’t have to have a PayPal account to make a donation.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated. Read the rest of this entry »

Nine Months After the Entirely Preventable Grenfell Tower Fire, UN Housing Rapporteur Says UK Government May Have Breached Residents’ Human Rights

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Today, survivors of the Grenfell Tower Fire last June — and supporters from across London —  are taking part in a Silent Walk that begins outside the offices of Kensington and Chelsea Council and ends by the blackened skeleton of the tower, where over 70 people died. The fire should never have happened, but did so because safety standards have been fatally eroded over many years by those responsible for the safety of tenants and leaseholders — central government, local government, management companies that have taken over the management of swathes of social housing, and contractors.

For me, the fire was the defining moment of 2017, and in summer I wrote a song about it, remembering those whose lives were “so needlessly lost”, and calling for ”those who only count the profit not the human cost” to be held accountable. Three members of my band The Four Fathers — myself, Richard Clare and Mark Quiney, accompanied by my son Tyler beatboxing — were recorded playing the song by a German film crew in autumn. We released it as a video in December, and I’m pleased to note that it currently has nearly 1,500 views on YouTube (posted below) and on Facebook. Please watch it, and share it if you like it. We hope to make a studio recording soon, and would be delighted to hear from anyone in the Grenfell community who would like to be involved, as we would love it to be used to help the survivors.

Read the rest of this entry »

Quarterly Fundraiser Day 1: Please Help Me Raise $2500 (£1800) to Support My Work on Guantánamo

Andy Worthington calling on Donald Trump to close Guantanamo today, March 12, 2018. Andy is holding poster showing that, today, the prison has been open for 5,905 days.Please click the ‘Donate’ button to make a donation towards the $2500 (£1850) I’m trying to raise to support my work on Guantánamo for the next three months!

 

Dear friends and supporters – and anyone happening to pass by,

It’s that time of year again, when I ask you, if you can, to support my work as an independent journalist, activist and commentator, working primarily to educate people about the prison at Guantánamo Bay and to get it closed down — and, if you wish, my campaigning work to try and prevent the destruction of housing estates in London and across the UK, my London photography, and my music, with my band The Four Fathers.

I am, it seems, a very modern creation — a writer and campaigner funded almost entirely by my supporters, so if you can help out at all, please click on the “Donate” button above to make a payment via PayPal. Any amount will be gratefully received — whether it’s $500, $100, $25 or even $10 — or the equivalent in any other currency.

You can also make a recurring payment on a monthly basis by ticking the box marked, “Make this a monthly donation,” and if you are able to do so, it would be very much appreciated.

The donation page is set to dollars, because the majority of my readers are based in the US, but PayPal will convert any amount you wish to pay from any other currency — and you don’t have to have a PayPal account to make a donation. Read the rest of this entry »

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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